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Fight brewing in South Dakota over transgender high school athletes’ rights

Chris Mosier and others are gearing up to fight against SB49, which would force trans youth to deny their expressed gender.

Rally Held In Support Of Transgender Community Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The continuing fight over trans inclusion in sports is headed to South Dakota, as a bill has been introduced in the South Dakota State Senate that would force transgender athletes to compete as the gender assigned to them at birth.

The bill, SB49, aims to strike down a policy adopted in 2015 by the South Dakota High School Activities Association that has opened the door for trans athletes to participate in high school sports other than their gender assigned at birth.

The bill reads, in part:

For purposes of participation in athletics sanctioned by the association, the sole determinant of a student’s sexual identity is the sexual identity noted on the student’s certificate of birth.

If there’s no sex listed on the birth certificate, the athlete has to undergo a physical examination to determine their gender.

Texas has a similar law, and of course the whole thing backfired when Mack Beggs was forced to wrestle girls and ended up with two undefeated seasons and two state titles. But the anti-trans lawmakers in South Dakota didn’t learn a thing from that.

Chris Mosier, the world-class trans athlete and advocate, has put together a petition and he’s asking athletes of all levels to sign on. Mosier has fought for and educated on trans-inclusive athletic policies for years. It was his success in the world of duathlon that pushed the International Olympic Committee to broaden its trans-inclusion policy three years ago.

“There are known physical, mental, social, and psychological benefits for any person participating in sports,” Mosier told Outsports. “For young people, it’s an opportunity for them to connect with their peers, and learn critical leadership and communication skills, and work with diverse teammates toward a common goal.

“Sport can help trans youth connect to their peers and learn more about themselves. I certainly felt that way; when I didn’t know who I was or how I fit in, sports gave me a purpose and a sense of belonging, and the values and skills I learned on teams comprise the core of who I am today.”

Some states have come under fire in recent years for having a trans-inclusion sports policy that is too broad. Most notably, two trans girls in Connecticut have found championship-level success on the track prompting protests and petitions.

Regardless of how you feel about that, given the healing and self-empowerment benefits of sports participation, the answer is clearly not to force trans youth to continue to live as a gender with which they don’t identify. Making trans youth — who are already attempting suicide at alarming rates — feel bad about themselves in sports doesn’t solve anything.

If you’re an athlete looking to support the rights of trans youth to validate their expressed gender in sports, be sure to sign Mosier’s petition and share it across social media.